Telling a manager they need to delegate more is often like telling a superhero they need to set aside their vast powers and watch their employees do the world saving: “Did you save the world like I asked you too? No? You said you would get that done by Tuesday…”
The executive overlord gets frustrated because she’s tired of hearing the superhero manager say he’s too busy. “Just delegate more and follow up!” shouts the overlord.
The superhero gets defensive and walks out of the meeting with his cape in a bunch because no one saves the world like he does. In fact, the last time he delegated saving the world, his underling was content to stop an evil genius by just freezing his assets. The superhero manager knows you must always confront the evil genius face to face in the depths of the evil lair. This attention to detail is what got the superhero the manager job in the first place.
What the superhero manager AND the executive overlord must realize though is that delegating is not just a matter of getting better at assigning work and following up, it’s a matter of building the right team to delegate to, then going through the gut wrenching process of giving up tasks and control for the purpose of getting bigger picture items done. It’s a matter of hanging up the cape and donning a pair of chinos.
Fortunately here’s a step by step process to help you through it, custom made for superheroes:
1. Scope of responsibility – Every department, division, or business unit has a scope of responsibility. This is the total workload of that area. What’s most important, before considering additional delegation, is that the scope of responsibility is executed successfully. If, temporarily because of resource constraints, that gets done by a manager flying around like a hyperactive overcaffeinated supermanager, so be it. That’s not ideal, but priority one is to execute on the scope of responsibility.
2. It’s not just saving the world – But hold on there manager of steel, your scope of responsibility has many facets, not just saving the world. There’s also rescuing cats from trees, or helping senior citizens cross the street. In all the frantic flying around, are you getting just the urgent world saving tasks done and neglecting other duties? If so, then delegate these lesser tasks to your budding superheroes. They will do them as if they were saving the world.
3. Even saving the world is a team effort – Everyone wants to focus on the evil genius confrontation part of the world saving, but what about logistics, costume repair, and things like busting down doors of evil genius lairs? Everyone has a number of little specialties. Don’t get so caught up in the end result that you forget to work on the less dramatic but just as important interim parts of world saving. Assign those tasks to others, and save the world as a team.
4. Skills and preference – You want to still be a manager/doer. That’s fine. When you delegate, try to maximize people’s skills and indulge preferences, including your own. Maybe, for example, you can still fly faster than anyone else. Great, so long distance world saving is your bailiwick. But long distance world saving only happens ten percent of the time. Delegate local world saving to others, so they can exercise their talents and develop new skills.
5. Delegate communication and process – You may get caught in this trap, “We are a bunch of superheroes; we don’t need processes. We just use our super powers and figure stuff out.” That may be how you operate, but the rest of the team wants a little bit of structure. If it’s not your thing, simply delegate the process and ongoing communication to someone who likes it. Maybe promote a team leader who schedules heroic events for people requesting superhero assistance. Someone will rise up and fly with it, and you’ll get it out of your super hair.
6. Hire other superheroes – Always look to hire other superheroes that are either more skilled than you at your specific talents or have a different talent. These people won’t let you get away with not delegating. They will pull tasks from you so they can exercise their talents. For example, you may want someone who can fly faster than you AND freeze things with her mind. That way, you can take vacation and if an evil genius tries to import weaponized newtonium by ship, you have someone who can instantly freeze the harbor with thought power.
7. Think about your overlord – Your overlord may be a former superhero, current desk jockey who keeps telling you to delegate more. One day try flipping the script on them and ask what more they could delegate to you. You’ve already done steps 1 through 6 above. What can you now do to help your overlord move up and become a grand overlord (or pursue whatever career paths superhero overlords pursue)?
8. Delegate for higher purpose – In the end, what’s the purpose of delegation? It’s a way to raise everyone’s level. The world saving will still happen, but instead of it being done just by you, your team is now doing it and improving their skills along the way. At the same time you can now use some of your other vast talents to build a new worldwide superhero consortium or start a superhero training center like you always wanted to do.
The purpose of delegation is to maximize productivity, get more done consistently, and raise everyone’s level. If you do this, you will transform from a super manager to a super leader. And every once in a while, if you feel the need, you can still put your cape back on and take out an evil genius. That is, if you can still fit in your tights.